Jerusalem Syndrome

Apparently a number of people who visit Jerusalem are so affected they dress up in biblical garb, preach at holy sites, and then days later don’t remember a thing.

18 replies on “Jerusalem Syndrome”

  1. I definitely think it is possible. I was an anthropology student with emphasis in biblical studies and the fact that people believe so strongly can effect them when they meet the thing they believed in. For this case its going to the ‘holy land’

  2. Yeah, that’s Jerusalem Syndrome, although quite often it’s a case of people with a previous history of religion-related instability coming to Jerusalem and being driven over the edge by the proximity and the “realness” of all the holy sites.

    DC gets a lot of “DC Syndrome” crazies too; psychotic or schizophrenic types who fix Washington in their minds as the locus of America, where if they yell in the streets (or by the White House) for long enough they will get attention from those in power — which is true if you’re a lobbyist with connections, maybe not so much if you’re a random backpacker who’s missed his meds.

  3. Demonic activity around that area is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament.

    Perhaps this is just a modern report of the same thing reported about in the New Testament.

  4. Speaking from a bitter personal experience – I am bipolar II and I have suffered something similar during my last hypomanic/psychotic crisis a few weeks ago , but in Athens / Greece ;-), it seems quite possible since a lot of psychotic fellows with a lock on Christianity, from all over the world , would choose the holy land for a Christmas travel location to preach their beliefs.

    During my brief psychotic break down I was more of a biblical prophet than the technology addicted geek / programmer I am the rest of the time…

  5. Apparently you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to get this. Some dude here in my town often stands on a street corner waving a Bible and shouting at all the cars with their windows closed and AC running.

  6. I can see this happening. The article goes on to say that Jerusalem itself does not make the people this way, but that they have had history of disturbances in the past and the culmination of this, their lack of sleep, and extreme excitement of being at the holy city helps push them to this quite interesting state. I’ll be careful if I go to Jerusalem. 🙂 I’ll make sure I get plenty of sleep, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to keep myself in prayer. 😉

  7. Probably not a hoax. A few years ago I read of a similar problem observed by doctors in places like Rome or Athens or Venice where travelers, overwhelmed by all the familiar-yet-unfamiliar ancient history and famous works of art around them (ie, going into the Sistine Chapel, seeing the Coliseum, etc) collapse or faint or have heart attacks on the spot.

  8. I can assure you this is no hoax. I lived in Jerusalem for over a year (actually lived within the Old City walls), and this does happen. I was there during the millennium and it was HORRIBLE. The Mount Sinai hospital psych ward was overflowing. On the up-side I did add to my collection of religious propaganda pamphlets. My personal favorite is a guy named ‘David’ (As in, King). He is an American who lives in the Kidron Valley in an abandoned tomb and plays a lyre. He actually has a very nice singing voice. He never pushes himself on anyone, never proselytizes, but if you make the effort to talk to him it is very clear that he truly believes himself to be King David. He only wears a white long robe, and a single tiny gold coin on a chain over his third eye (What that has to do with being king I never did find out). He was there when I visited in 1999/2000, and still there in 2006 when I was back. As far as I know he is still there now.

    Religious fanaticism isn’t that odd. Look at our president. To (probably mis-)quote Sam Harris, Bush says that he regularly talks to God and people praise him for it. If he said that he regularly talked to god via a hairdryer we would think him mad. How does the inclusion of a hairdryer alter the situation??

  9. Interesting… I can’t see myself having such problems just from visiting a foreign land, but wouldn’t doubt it happening… the whole not remembering anything at the end is a bit odd though.

  10. I was ill in Jerusalem in 1996. I ended up in Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital for a week (the local mental hospital). I didn’t go round saying I was the messiah, but I did meet a lot of strange people, and a lot of odd things happened to me. As far as I know I was not hallucinating even though I was probably delusional at the time. I was already a bit funny before I went to Israel, but I think that being at a yeshiva in the Old City in Jerusalem ‘brought out’ my breakdown. One rabbi who I believe had been trying to help me, told me very worriedly that I should say tehillim – psalms, and I still say them sometimes even if I don’t say all the ritual Jewish prayers. I would still rather be living in Jerusalem having odd things happen to me, than doing nothing much in England on mind-slowing anti-psychotic drugs, but then in England there is a financial propping-up system – the national health service, and I haven’t the funds to wait for mystical answers in Israel sadly.

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